Caspar Babypants to rock Kirkland's socks off
By MATT PHELPS
Kirkland Reporter Regional Assistant Editor
November 26, 2010 · Updated 4:06 PM
Many parents feel the generational gap with their kids for the first time when they turn their music on in the car. Inappropriate lyrics or subject matter in many forms of popular music can make for a (sometimes) very quiet car ride with the kids. But when a parent’s favorite musician is also the child’s, things take a bit of a turn. Lead singer and guitarist of the rock band Presidents of the United States of America (PUSA), Chris Ballew, has set out to make music for the family with his new music project and persona Caspar Babypants.
“I like it to be useful and reduce stress,” said Babypants. “It is nice when kids and parents can sing the same songs without cringing.”
He will play twice in Kirkland this weekend, Saturday at the Kingsgate Library at 10:30 a.m. and Sunday at the Kirkland Performance Center at 12:30 p.m. He will also play his 150th show as Caspar Babypants at the Lake Forrest Park Library at 2 p.m. Saturday. All three shows are free.
This is the third time Babypants has played in Kirkland with the project. The first time was in 2009 and then again last summer during the Summer Concert Series.
“I love Kirkland, it is like a little Santa Monica,” he said.
Ballew was inspired by his wife Kate Endle’s work as a children’s book illustrator.
“Her work is so clean and innocent, bright and folksy,” said Ballew, who played his first kids show in 2002 as a part of a benefit and got hooked. “I said ‘I want to make music that sounds like it looks.’”
Ballew’s music in PUSA was known for being quirky, light and fun. The switch to Caspar Babypants was not that far to go.
“It is very similar,” said Babypants. “I just removed the loud drums, loud guitar and irony. This feels like what I am supposed to be doing. It is very validating.”
PUSA was arguably one of the biggest bands in the world at one point, with hit singles such as “Lump” and “Peaches.” The band also recorded the theme song to the Drew Carry show “Cleveland Rocks.”
These days some of his song names are “Shoo Fly,” “Under a Rock” and “Dog Gone Gone Dog Gone.”
Ballew, who played a two-string bass in PUSA, has traded it for a three-string guitar as Babypants and sees a lot of PUSA fans bringing their kids to his Caspar Babypants’ shows.
Babypants also plays many covers by changing the lyrics like Free Crawling, as opposed to Free Falling from Tom Petty, and Juicy Juice, instead of Gin and Juice from rapper Snoop Dogg. But one of his most popular covers, Sliver from Nirvana, does not have a single lyric changed.
“We played at the art museum on the same day that the Cobain exhibit opened and we wanted to do something for that,” said Babypants.
The song is on his album “This is fun!” Altogether, Babypants has three albums of original music. The other cover songs will probably remain just for live performance, said the singer. The Nirvana song is on the album because Babypants got permission to use it from Krist Novoselic, the former bassist of Nirvana, who also played on the recording.
Ballew said that he played a show in Ohio as Babypants when he was on vacation visiting his in-laws but at this point he has no interest in taking it to a national audience. Babypants played one show at the Mercer Island Library that drew 350 people.
“What happened to us, happened to us,” said Ballew, who was not a big fan of being a huge rock star with PUSA. “When I think of this a couple words come to mind: relaxing and sustainable ... Some days this is already too big. I would love to become the ‘Goodnight Moon’ of childrens’ music.”
Babypants does most everything himself, but has some friends who often accompany him onstage. Fred “Babyshirt” Northup Jr. plays percussion, not drums, and Ron “Babyshoes” Hippe on piano.
“The creative part is so fun,” said Babypants, who does most of his shows through the King County Library System. “I have a clear vision and it is fun to make that vision come to life.”Contact Kirkland Reporter Regional Assistant Editor Matt Phelps at email@example.com or 425-822-9166 ext. 5052.